What if?
By Todd Long

What if I did? It's a simple question. Take a look at your heart. Place your hand over it. Is it beating? Consider yourself blessed. Now take a look at your mind. Think.

What if I did change the world? What if I told someone I loved them today, or gave them a pat on the back, even if I didn't know them? What if I said thanks and please and ma'am and sir more? What if I took the time to stop and listen to a child uninterrupted? What if I gave more money to charity and less to myself? What if I bought the firehouse dinner this evening? What if I smiled more? What if I encouraged someone today? What if I told the world that killing isn't a video game and heroes don't come from Hollywood? What if the world paid its teachers, firemen, police officers, military and security personnel what they deserve?

What if I blamed less and forgave more? What if I fought terrorism every day by joining my Neighborhood Watch? What if I lived simpler so that others could simply live? Maybe use one less light than usual, buy a better-mileage car, or consume less material goods? What if I changed the world by starting with me? What if I started a movement?

It's easy to wish the world were different. It is -- every day. But what if I did something, anything, today to make it better? Plant a flower or tree, practice my religion, pay for the guy behind me's coffee for no reason? Complain less? What if I wrote my parents or children a note out of the blue so they knew I loved them? What if I volunteered? Every society is in rebuilding or building mode; what if I helped?

See, the simple truth is that we are all in the army now. And we all must fight, but in different ways. The world's army has many branches and beliefs. But the world's army is good and kind. Think of how the world could change if we helped other countries up, instead of using their labor for a nickel an hour or dollar a day so we can wear a shirt with a certain fashionable name? What if I bought a cheaper shirt so I could buy two, then gave one to someone who needs it more than I do?

It's amazing to see what we are capable of in times of crisis, how quickly we can raise money and bring food and supplies to rescue workers and families. What if someone organized the same crisis response in every city in the world, except didn't wait for the crisis; instead understood that every day is a crisis for someone? What if we did things like pool our talents for free in our spare time? We all have occupations and knowledge to share. Stay-at-home moms can teach parenting skills, financial folks can teach personal finance, construction workers can repair houses for those who can't afford it. Artists can teach us to sing and dance and create.

In fact, we could create a network where people donated their time and skills to those in need; we all need something. And we all have something to offer. What if we created communities in which we feed all of our citizens, teach them to read and write, train them for jobs that involve more than flipping prepackaged frozen patties? What if instead of scorching earth to  build new strip malls, we rebuilt areas we abandoned? What if we cared more for people we don't know and people we do? What if we understood that we are stewards of this Earth? What if we actually solved problems ourselves instead of waiting on those who are lobbied to do the opposite?

What if we saw no color? Blood is red, eyes are white, and we all breathe from the same blue sky. What if we dropped ideology for humanity? What if we brought back the farmers by supporting them to grow food for our country and other countries that desperately need it? What if we understood that no matter what faith you believe in, faith is important? It's not up to us to decide who's going where. What if I understood that you don't have to believe what I believe in order to respect you and love you? What if I asked more people to tell me a story about their life? What if I talked with the elderly after work? What if I learned to sit and be still? What if I didn't show in front of kids what I don't want them to learn? What if I learned what other cultures are like instead of listening to people who don't know? What if I watched someone else's kids after school for free to ease a working parent's load?

We're at a time in the world where the only question is: "Why don't we?" We stand at an incredible opportunity crossing. If we all took a moment to think "what if I did?" and did it, we wouldn't have the questions. We are all only here for a little while, and we're all in this together. Some of us only stay for days or hours, and some of us stay a century or more. What's important is that in this limited time we are given, we can change the world. We can leave our mark on history. Every one of us has the propensity for greatness, even if no one outside of our own smaller world knows. Goodness seeks no reward or public acknowledgment.

If we all only made the effort to make the world better by starting with ourselves, how the world could change. And then if we all did more to help someone else, maybe the world would be far less violent. We all fall down. What if we all picked each other up like the folks in New York City are doing?

For the final thought, eliminate the first two words and the question mark from the first sentence. I did.

-- Todd Long lives in Ventura, California

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